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My dry, "dead" hydrangea is growing??

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:24 am
by AKelsey83
So...a little story:

I visited my mother last summer and fell in love with her gorgeous hydrangeas. I decided I wanted some for my yard, but wasn't quite ready to dish out the money. Well, imagine my surprise when I found one growing in my backyard a few weeks later! However, I use the term "growing" pretty loosely. Had I not seen the two-inch half-head of flowers struggling to poke up out of the grass, I would have missed it. The plant was tiny, burned (from being in direct sun) and absolutely eaten up with leaf spot. I think it had even been run over a couple of times with the lawn mower. I just knew for the plant to have any chance at survival, I would need to move it. But I was taking a risk: it was mid-July (in Virginia), the worst possible time to transplant anything.

After thinking about it, I decided to go ahead with the transplant. I found a shady spot at the front of my house and moved the roots there. When I dug up the plant, I ended up with four separate root pieces with stems attached, so I planted all of them in different holes. Two of them took to the soil right away. By the end of the season, all of the leaf spot had disappeared and the plants had put out a few new stems and leaves. The plants are still tiny, but they're putting on leaf buds and look marvelously healthy. The other two stems spent the rest of the year as dry twigs. I figured I would toss them out in the spring.

Well, hello, hello! I go out to examine my hydrangeas the other day, and notice one of the "dead" plants. It still looks dry and wasted, but it's now a good 3 inches taller and doubled in diameter since the summer. It also has some flexible stems on it, though no leaf buds yet. Has anyone heard of this happening?! Is this hydrangea eventually going to bloom?! I'm new to gardening, so any knowledge or advice would be appreciated.

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:20 pm
by luis_pr
Hydrangeas continue growing thru the summer months but just a little. If the winter months have been mild, it would make the plant grow a little but leafing out will probably require waiting a little longer. If they are winter hardy, they will bloom eventually but it may take a year or two, depending on how old it really is. At this point, priority one should be to build a good root system above all else.

You may want to give them 1/4 the normal amount of fertilizer or so, maybe no more than 1/2. Say, 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of cottonseed meal about 2 weeks after your average date of last frost. Mulch them with about 2-3" of acidic mulch so the decomposing mulch provides it with more nutrients later on. Weak fertilizer like liquid seaweed, liquid fish or coffee grounds will be fine too but wait after the chance of frost has passed. Some people let them bloom but quickly prune off the blooms so the plants concentrates on building a good root system. Others prefer to keep the bloom(s) so it is your choice. Water as needed such that the soil is not dry or almost dry. Skip watering iof the soil feels moist or wet.

Do not prune it for the next few years (unless really necessary) and stop all fertilizers by the end of June. At that time or in the early Fall, re-check the amount of mulch and add more if needed. I would let the mulch extend about 6-12" from the "main" trunk.

Flower buds this year will be generated sometime around July-August. Those flower buds will be invisible and remain so until leaf out time in the Spring of 2014. But again, it may be too small to produce blooms and may skip one or two more seasons. Hopefully the mother plant is winter hardy and supports growing flower buds during your winter months.


Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:56 am
by AKelsey83
Thanks for the advice! Although it will take a while to bring these up to full plants, I look forward to the end result!

Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:25 am
by luis_pr
Good luck with your plants. I too found a 2" high new hydrangea like you did but my results were not successful. It was growing near a fence where the pooches congregated to bark at squirrels so the poor plant got trampled one time and did not recover. That is when I figured my wire fences were not going to protect any plants from the dogs when they went into hyper excited mode! :lol: